Sunday, December 30, 2007

God's Glory in Creation


Morning Prayer:
O God open my heart that I may receive your word into my life this day. Help me to read your word now, to be aware of its meaning in the lives of saints down through the centuries. But more importantly throughout this day, give me insight and wisdom, understanding and action that your word may come alive for me as well as others that I come in contact with. Help me to hear it again and again as good news, the gospel light and hope, the promise of your presence in the world. Amen.

Psalm 150:
When I hear or read the words of Psalm 150 I am reminded that all of our activity from early morning to late at night for God is praise; not just humans but all of creation. The gift of creating a holy band to wholly praise our creator in one accord would be such a unique undertaking, but to hear the harmony of such an orchestra of praise instead of fighting would be heaven.

I Kings 17:17-24
When I read the passage from I Kings this morning, two things fascinated me, one is the mother’s panic and the other is prophet’s calm. She may not be yelling at Elijah, but she is desperate and she is hurt and she does blame him for her son’s death. In the midst of the accusations the prophet calmly asks for the son and takes him to the upper chamber where he prays. It is difficult to tell whether his calm takes on the panic of the boy’s mother or he is simply praying and getting God’s attention. But nevertheless, the widow’s concerns are being voiced in heaven and more importantly they are heard in heaven.

3 John 1-13
The apostles write to the churches as a parent would write children. They are eager to hear form them, they are eager for a word from them, they are eager to hear how they are doing, to hear how they are learning and growing in God’s grace. These apostles have started something and they like to hear and see the fruits of their labor.

John 4:46-54
The story of the royal official’s son being healed is a great story of faith. It is once again a story to any who grew up in the faith, who think we know all about what is going on, to have the opportunity to be surprised by faith. The Royal official seeks Jesus out because his son is ill. He doesn’t expect Jesus to come to him, but simply to give the order and his son will be made well. Jesus said to the man, “Go, your son will live” and the man believed the word that Jesus spoke to him. What might it be like for you and me if we sought Jesus out, asked God directly, listened for God’s response, and then did as God directed. There are two parts of this story that are very important that we cannot short circuit. Listening for God’s response and doing as God directed. Sometimes we ask God to do for us and then we stop—we stop praying, we don’t listen, we don’t even do anything. God expects us to keep praying, worshiping. We have to listen. Anytime we have a conversation with someone if we do all the talking there is not much of a relationship is there? And then we must respond to God’s direction. The man’s faith is remarkable, but it is the same faith that is a gift from God to you and me as well. Let’s use that gift.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Lives in the Balance


1 Samuel 2:1b-10
This text contains what is called the Song of Hannah. A portion of verse 3 says that “by (God) actions are weighed.” The verses that follow go on to show how God reverses the fortunes of the weak and poor, the hungry and needy, with images—pairs and opposites––that show the balances or scales of justice being adjusted in favor of those in need. “The bows of the mighty are broken, but the feeble gird on strength. Those who were full have hired themselves out for bread, but those who were hungry are fat with spoil. The barren has borne seven, but she who has many children is forlorn. The Lord kills and brings to life; he brings down to Sheol and raises up. The Lord makes poor and makes rich; he brings low, he also exalts” (verses 4-7). Shirley Guthrie, in his book Christian Doctrine, says that while human justice is often personified by a woman wearing a blindfold, to indicate that justice is blind, there is no such blindness in the case of God. The Song of Hannah rejoices that God is deliberately on the side of the poor and distressed. Actions have been weighed and those who have tended only to their own needs, who have benefited at the expense of others, have seen their lives corrected.

Titus 2:1-10
Luke 1:26-38
While I personally take issue with the words of Titus calling on young women to be submissive to their husbands and for slaves to be submissive to their masters, I take Mary’s words in Luke 1:38 to provide some understanding. “Then Mary said, ‘Here ma I, the servant of the Lord, let it be with me according to your word.’” For me the point is humility before God. Indeed, if the community of faith and each individual in it would “walk humbly” with God (Micah 6)––as Mary is prepared to do––then there would be no need for submission and certainly no place for slavery. The community would become what God intends it to be, mutually beneficial, guided by love, respect, and regard one for another. The balances and scales would be level, and all would live in peace.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

God's Glee


Psalm 50
Zephaniah 3:14-20
A portion of verses 17 and 18 in Zephaniah 3 says, “The Lord, your God, is in your midst, a warrior who gives victory; he will rejoice over you with gladness, he will renew you in his love; he will exult over you with loud singing as on a day of festival.” What a contrast there is between this image of God and the one of whom Psalm 50 says, “Not for your sacrifices do I rebuke you; your burnt offerings are continually before me” (verse 8). When the people celebrate it is without real meaning, without real joy. They are simply going through the motions, eager to return to their “normal lives.” By this God is disappointed. But when God celebrates there is joy and exultation, love and compassion. If only our worship of God could contain the same love, joy, and exultation with which God approaches us! How remarkable it is that the Creator of the universe can be imagined to nearly dance with glee!

Titus 1:1-16
Verse 16 speaks to the conflict between what we say and what we do: “They profess to know God, but they deny him by their actions.” This is very much in line with what Zephaniah was warning the people about. It isn’t what you say, the fact that you go through the motions of worship. What God wants are lives filled with faithfulness, with obedience which reaches beyond the worship experience and into the daily life of the believer. In other words, we should “practice what we preach.”

Monday, December 17, 2007

The House of the Lord

Psalms 122
Verse 1 is something that I seem to remember from my childhood; perhaps as a memory verse in Sunday school. “I was glad when they said to me, ‘Let us go to the house of the Lord.’” There is no greater joy for the Psalmist than to enter into the presence of God, to join with the community of God’s people in the act of worship and praise.

Zechariah 1:7-17
Verse 16 is a comforting word to the people of God. After years of hardship and the destruction of the temple God speaks of restoration. “Therefore, thus says the Lord, I have returned to Jerusalem with compassion; my house shall be built in it, says the Lord of hosts, and the measuring line shall be stretched out over Jerusalem.” The house of God, the temple, will stand again as a sign of God’s presence in the midst of God’s people.

Revelation 3:7-13
The members of the church in Philadelphia are commended for their “patient endurance” (verse 20) in the face of opposition. The writer of Revelation then encourages them with these words, “If you conquer, I will make you a pillar in the temple of my God; you will never go out of it.” Eternal joy is characterized as becoming a fixture in the presence of God. There are other uses of this sort of metaphor in scripture. “Do you not know that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in you?” says Paul in 1 Corinthians 3:16. 1 Peter 2:5 says, “…like living stones let yourselves be built into a spiritual house….” The community of faith, then, is the dwelling place of God in the new reality. Just as God appeared to Ezekiel by the River Chebar in Babylon, God now appears to us, dwells with us, in the places where we are.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

God Without Limits


Amos 9:1-10
Verse 7 asks an interesting question. “Are you not like the Ethiopians to me, O people of Israel? says the Lord. Did I not bring Israel up from the land of Egypt, and the Philistines from Caphtor, and the Arameans from Kir?” On the one hand, the Oxford Annotated Bible says that this verse indicates that “Israel has no claim to special privilege in the moral realm, for the Lord will destroy every sinful kingdom.” On the other hand, however, does this verse not also show that the divine hand is involved in all the affairs of humanity, not just those of a select people? The God of Israel is not a tribal god, not a totem or good luck charm. God is mighty and everlasting and God’s power transcends national boarders and cultural barriers. God had a role to play in the lives of the Philistines and Arameans. God certainly has a role to play in our world and our lives as well.

Revelation 2:8-17
In the same way that God is Sovereign over all the nations, God is also Sovereign over all of the churches. John records “a word” for the churches in both Smyrna and Pergamum. No one congregation is more dear to God than any other, and no congregation is without God’s provident care, nor God’s judgment as well. I would suggest that the same is true of denominations today. God’s care and judgment are over all forms of the church, whether Protestant, Roman Catholic, or Orthodox.

Matthew 23:13-26
Most of the religious leaders of Jesus’ day likely felt that they lived in a special relationship with God. The words of Jesus in verse 13 would have greatly offended them. “But woe to you, scribes and hypocrites! For you lock people out of the kingdom of heaven.” Those whose faith leads them to believe that they know best what God is doing, or that they have a better relationship with God should take note. God may be doing something very different.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Living as God's People


Revelation 1:17-2:7 and Amos 8:1-14 and Matthew 23:1-12
In the revelation of John there is a message for the seven churches, today’s passage is for the church in Ephesus. In those messages, in those proclamations to the church in Ephesus we hear God speaking to us. It is not enough to rely on the past. It is not enough to say who we were as individuals or as a church in the past. Faith is a constant, active, demonstration of our relationship with God. It is always challenging us on. John reminds the church and consequently us of the love they had when they first believed and the works they accomplished when they first believed. In Amos God challenged the people to live out their trust and faith in God, which included how they treated others. “Hear this, you that trample on the needy, and bring to ruin the poor of the land…Surely I will never forget any of their deeds…I will turn your feasts into mourning, and all your songs into lamentation…” Maybe these are words we don’t want to hear as we sing our Christmas carols or attend Christmas parties, but it is the message that God challenges us with this Advent season and all year, put your faith into practice. The child that you come seeking was poor and his family had no place to be. How we treat the least in society says the most about us. We in the church are called to serve not to be served. Jesus said, “The greatest among you will be your servant.”


Amos 8:1-14
I have a question that arises from the reasons for which God declares that “the end has come upon my people Israel” (verse 2). In verses 4 and 6 Amos speaks to those who “trample on the needy, and bring to ruin the poor of the land…buying the poor for silver, and the needy for a pair of sandals….” My question is won’t these same needy, poor people be swept away in the end that God has promised? Won’t they suffer along with the ones God intends to punish? This is causing me some discomfort, I’ll admit. All I can assume is that the plight of the poor and needy will be no worse in the circumstances that God is bringing to bear, or that perhaps they will actually improve. One issue perhaps is whether God is speaking of an ultimate end in which all life will be set right, or an end to Israel in which the nation will cease to exist and the people will be carried into exile. The fact that God also promises a famine of the divine word (verse 11) doesn’t clear things up any for me. Since I believe that God is always on the side of the poor and oppressed and that God takes pity on the least and lost, I will assume that God’s action against Israel as promised to the prophet Amos will in no way make their lives worse and may in fact improve their situation. But I’m still uncomfortable about all of this. (I’d invite anyone who happens to read this today to offer their own opinions on the matter. How will the condition of the needy and poor be any different in “the end” that God is bringing on Israel?)

Revelation 1:17-2:7
On the other hand, the Revelation passage offers comfort to the people of God in the words that John hears. Portions of 1:17-18 read, “Do not be afraid; I am the first and the last, and the living one. I was dead, and see, I am alive forever and ever…” God continues to care for the people throughout history. God continues to judge and to offer correction. In other words God keeps the conversation going and in doing so shows mercy and compassion. Christ has been raised to eternal glory, and though we may face hardship because of our faith (as the Ephesians have; see 2:1-3) God continues to watch over us and to be active in our midst.

Matthew 23:1-12
Gandhi is quoted as saying he would have been a Christian if he had ever known one. Had he known the Pharisees of whom Jesus is speaking it wouldn’t have helped. “(B)ut do not do as they do, for they do not practice what they teach.” All of us who strive to live lives of faith should keep this admonition in mind and make sure that we practice what we teach.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Being at Odds

Jim and Debbie:

Amos 7:10-17
Revelation 1:9-16
These passages both demonstrate how dangerous the word of God can be. Amos 7:10 tells us how Amazia, the priest in the temple of Bethel—the royal sanctuary for Israel after the division from Judah—took issue with the proclamation of Amos. “Then Amaziah, the priest of Bethel, sent to King Jeroboam of Israel, saying, ‘Amos has conspired against you in the very center of the house of Israel; the land is not able to bear all his words.’” Revelation 1:9 describes the situation that John found himself in. “I, John, your brother who share with you in Jesus the persecution and the kingdom and the patient endurance, was on the island called Patmos because of the word of God and the testimony of Jesus.” These men are in trouble with the powers that be because of their devotion to God’s word. Those, then, who expect faithful obedience to God to lead to ease and comfort are likely mistaken. Often faithfulness will put us at odds with the world or with our society. Then we may have to choose where to place our hope and our confidence. Do we choose the path of least resistance in this life, the way that leads to easy acceptance from the world? Or do we remain faithful to God’s will even when it leads us to speak against the powers of the world? Amos and John obviously choose to serve God with as much faithfulness as they could muster, and it got them in trouble. One should never take the word of God lightly.

Psalm 146
Verses 3 and 4 echoes the choices that people of faith are called to make. “Do not put your trust in princes, in mortals, in whom there is not help. When their breath departs they return to the earth; on that very day their plans perish.” Faith leads us to make our decisions based on God’s will, not on the basis of earthly powers, for in the end, only God’s will remains and all the power and might of the earth will be cast away.

Matthew 22:34-46
Of course Jesus was no stranger to controversy. Far from being gentle, meek, and mild, Jesus was forceful and aggressive in asserting the truth of God’s word, especially when it stood in conflict with the perceptions and assumptions of the religious community.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Conversations With God


Amos 7:1-9
In the cathedral in Coventry, England there are many beautiful sculptures and works of art. To me one of the more memorable sculptures depicts a city, above which hangs a large plumb line. The work is based on Amos 7:7-8 which reads, “This is what (God) showed me: the Lord was standing beside a wall built with a plumb line, with a plumb line in his hand. And the Lord said to me, ‘Amos, what do you see?’ And I said, ‘A plumb line.’ Then the Lord said, ‘See, I am setting a plumb line in the midst of my people Israel; I will never again pass them by.’” These are words of judgment, of course. God has found human activity to be mired in sin and compared to God’s will to be woefully askew. But grace abounds because God, though angry with the people, is willing to keep a conversation going, to keep talking to the prophet and to the people. God has not gotten so angry as to simply go away, but remains in contact with us. The divine plumb line is the standard that God sets for us to live by, one that would result in grace-filled lives if we would just abide by it. In the mean time God remains involved with us.

Revelation 1:1-8
Another conversation takes place through the words of Revelation, or, to be more precise, many conversations, some of which involve us as participants. Verse 3 says, “Blessed is the one who reads aloud the word of this prophecy, and blessed are those who hear and who keep what is written in it….” The first conversation will be between God and the writer of Revelation. But there will be countless others to follow: between those who read the book and the Holy Spirit who gives meaning to the words; those who undertake to preach from the book and those to whom they preach; those who share the good news as found in Revelation with those who have not received the word of God; and so forth. Blessings abound through the word of God.

Matthew 22:23-33
A third conversation takes place in our reading from Matthew when a group of Sadducees come to Jesus and challenge him with a question. Jesus responds with such power and clarity that “when the crowd heard it, they were astounded at his teaching” (verse 33). Sadly, given a chance to talk to Jesus, to learn from the Messiah, these Sadducees wanted to try to trap him or to show that he was wrong. Even if they were not convinced he was the Messiah they could see that he taught with authority. Why waste the opportunity? Why not have a serious conversation and learn as much as possible? What about us? Do we have serious conversations with God when we pray? when we read scripture? when we worship? Or do we waste our opportunities? And most importantly, when we converse with God are we paying attention? God is speaking to us, are we listening?

Saturday, December 8, 2007

Justice and Righteousness


Amos 5:18-27
Among the most familiar words of the prophet Amos are those found in verses 21 and 24. “I hate, I despise your festivals, and I take no delight in your solemn assemblies…But let justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream.” A right relationship with God can not be purchased or finagled for; it grows, it develops, it flourishes when we do God’s will and care for those around us. Put another way, God wants us to do what is right, and when we do, we become vessels of praise for God. Rolling waters and ever-flowing streams are apt images in this case, because water is necessary for growth and development. Life indeed flourishes when there is ample moisture, and the good life that God intends flourishes when justice and righteousness are present in abundance.

Jude 17-25
Jude points to growth and life, too, in verse 20: “But you, beloved, build yourselves up on your most holy faith…” When faith enables us to be built up, to take shape as God’s people, as God intends us, then there is growth, not only for us but for those around us. I don’t imagine that this exhortation is addressed to a collection of individuals, but rather to a community of believers who are challenged to build (and be built) together in a cooperative, connectional faith. What does this faith look like? The words from Amos would be a good start. Justice and righteousness rolling and ever-flowing can build a positive community and promote life. And when we concentrate on the power of justice and righteousness we are made more alive to God as well as to each other.

Matthew 22:15-22
I think this experience from the ministry of Jesus also ties in nicely to the passage from Amos. The Pharisees and Herodians who try to trap Jesus are focused on the practice of a shallow piety, the sort of actions that compare to empty festivals or meaningless assemblies. Jesus calls God’s people to a higher level. Set your heart on God, he is saying, and show love and respect for one another. Give to God what belongs to God: your heart, soul, mind, and strength. The rest will take care of itself.

Friday, December 7, 2007

Making Choices


Amos 5:1-17
Verse 15 lays out a choice for the people of God: “Hate evil and love good, and establish justice in the gate; it may be that the Lord, the God of hosts will be gracious to the remnant of Joseph.” Elsewhere Amos has encourages the people to “seek (God) and live” (v. 4) and “seek good and not evil, that you may live.” (v. 14) Life is full of choices, and those choices have consequences for us and for others. The People of God are no different. The choice God offers is one of right relationship based on goodness and justice. To live this way as individuals and as a community is to provide the environment though which God’s grace and mercy may abound, though which we may become partners in God’s activity to God’s glory.

Jude 1-16
Jude also talks about choices that are made and about those who choose poorly. Verse 16 lays out some of the attributes of those who stand in opposition to God’s will. “These are grumblers and malcontents; they indulge their own lusts; they are bombastic in speech, flattering people to their own advantage.” To live in such a way is to cause harm to the community of faith and to invite the judgment of God. We all make mistakes. We all make poor choices from time to time. Perhaps we will grumble, or look for our own advantage in a situation. Maybe we will too easily find fault with others or will refuse to see the good all around us. This is the nature of sin. But God invites us to strive toward good choices, to aspire to more godly living, that we and those around us may be blessed.

Matthew 22:1-14
Jesus, too, presents a parable about choice. I believe that is the issue with the wedding guest described in verses 11 and 12. “But when the king came in to see the guests, he noticed a man there who as not wearing a wedding robe, and he said to him, ‘Friend, how did you get in here without a wedding robe?’ And he was speechless.” The man who is not dressed appropriately has not lived his life in such a way as to be prepared for God’s coming. Instead of being clothed in acts of goodness and mercy, he has chosen sinful disregard to God’s will. As such he has no defense when he is challenged by the king. He has not strived to participate in God’s work, not aspired to be a party to the graciousness that God offers. He is not in step with the coming kingdom or the wedding feast. What choices do we make? How are we living our lives? Are we dressed appropriately for God’s kingdom?

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Glory Be to God!

Amos 4:6-13
Verse 13 says, “For lo, the one who forms the mountains, creates the wind, reveals his thoughts to mortals, makes the morning darkness, and treads on the heights of the earth—the Lord, the God of hosts, is his name!” This is a doxology, a description of the glory of God as displayed in some of God’s mighty acts. That it comes at the end of a very harsh assessment of Israel’s relationship with God serves to put the blame squarely on the shoulders of the people. God’s will is the standard by which humanity is measured. Yet in the face of waywardness and injustice, God remains a source of light and life, the voice of truth, the God of hosts.

2 Peter 3:11-18
I am personally challenged by the words of verses 14 and 15. “Therefore, beloved, while you are waiting for these things, strive to be found by (God) at peace, without spot or blemish; and regard the patience of our Lord as salvation.” The same God to whom Amos offers glory is the God of our salvation, which is born of divine patience with our misdeeds. The challenge for me is to constantly strive to be at peace, which I take to mean in right relationship with God and with my neighbors. I know I will not be found “without spot or blemish” in this regard, but with God’s help I am to aspire to goodness. Even when I am angry or frustrated or disheartened or tired or ready to chunk it all, God calls for my best efforts to God’s glory, and that is certainly not easy for me to do. But with God’s help I will try again, and though I fail a thousand times, I will try a thousand and one.

Matthew 21:33-46
At first glance the words of verse 41 seem a little out of kilter. The wicked tenants have just killed the son and heir of the vineyard. What will the vineyard owner do when he comes? “They said to him, ‘He will put those wretches to a miserable death, and lease the vineyard to other tenants who will give him the produce at the harvest time?’” My question is, if his son has just been killed, is the owner of the vineyard really worried about whether the next tenants will give him produce or not? But remember that the vineyard owner represents God and, as verse 43 reminds us, the fruit of the vineyard is really “the fruits of the kingdom.” God is worried about the produce of the vineyard, because it represents a right relationship with God. Those who produce the fruits of the kingdom will care for one another and for the stranger in their midst. They will provide for the widow and orphan, will care for the last and least. They will strive to be found at peace, as 2 Peter encourages us to be, and will give praise to God with lives of righteousness as Amos calls for.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

What's Your Motivation?


Amos 3:12-4:5
There is a lot of sarcasm in the words of Amos found in verses 4 and 5. “Come to Bethel—and transgress to Gilgal––,” he writes, “and multiply transgression; bring your sacrifices every morning, your tithes every three days; bring a thank offering of leavened bread, and proclaim freewill offerings, publish them; for so you love to do, O people of Israel! says the Lord God.” Clearly it is not enough to go through the motions, to give offerings or make sacrifices if one’s heart is not in the act. What God seeks, according to Amos, is righteousness and justice not meaningless ritual. The question is what motivates our actions toward God? Do we give freely and generously because we are grateful to God, because we acknowledge God’s grace in our lives? Or do we try to “hedge our bets,” so God will get off our backs and leave us alone? Do we try to separate our giving from our living? Amos tells us that God is not interested in empty gestures. God wants our whole-hearted devotion and our full attention.

2 Peter 3:1-10
The author of 2 Peter also wants his readers to examine their motivation. Portions of verses 1 and 2 say, “…I am trying to arouse your sincere intention by reminding you that you should remember the words spoken in the past by the holy prophets, and the commandment of the Lord and Savior spoken through your apostles.” Are our intentions sincere? Do they resonate with the will of God as spoken by prophets and apostles? Do they reflect God’s love? Or are we simply going through the motions in order to buy ourselves some time, or to avoid unpleasant circumstances? It is important that we consider what motivates us even as we seek to live lives of faithful obedience.

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

God's Word at Work


Amos 3:1-11
Beginning in verse 3 there is a series of illustrative questions culminating in verse 8, which combines the imagery of the preceding verses: “The lion has roared, who will not fear? The Lord God has spoken; who can but prophesy?” The bottom line is that when God calls someone to act as a prophet, they simply can not resist, any more than one might resist fear caused by the roaring of a wild animal. There is no point blaming the prophets, then, for the words they speak. They are only doing what God has compelled Them to do, only saying what God has revealed to them. To borrow a famous line from the movie “The Godfather”, it’s as if God has “made them an offer they can’t refuse.”

2 Peter 1:12-21
2 Peter offers a similar perspective on prophecy. Verses 20 and 21 read, “First of all you must understand this, that no prophecy of scripture is a matter of one’s own interpretation, because no prophecy ever came by human will, but men and women moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God.” God is behind all revelation, God is in the word spoken by God’s prophets. Speaking that word is not an act that originates with the person, but rather is in response to God’s action. I think Peter would recognize this as an ongoing phenomenon and not reserved to the prophets of the past. When we prophesy, that is when we speak God’s word for the world with authority, it is in response to God’s activity. In 2 Corinthians Paul says, “What we proclaim is not ourselves but Jesus Christ as Lord.” In other words it’s not about us. But as the writer of 2 Peter reminds us, speaking the word doesn’t begin with us either.

Matthew 21:12-22
According to Matthew, the religious leaders of Jerusalem objected to what the children were saying about Jesus, calling him the Son of David. Jesus’ reply was to quote Psalm 8. “Jesus said to them, ‘Yes, have you never read, “Out of the mouths of infants and nursing babies you have prepared praise for yourself ?”’” Again, God’s word must be proclaimed, God’s praise must be uttered. God is at work making that word alive in our midst, whether it is on the lips of prophets or of children.

Monday, December 3, 2007

Amazing Grace


Amos 2:6 –16
Oddly, the connection I made to this passage comes from verse 16, “and those who are stout of heart among the mighty shall flee away naked in that day, says the Lord.” What came to mind was the scene of Jesus’ arrest as told by Mark where, “A certain young man was following him, wearing nothing but a linen cloth. They caught hold of him, but he left the linen cloth and ran off naked.” Indeed, those who had said they would stand by Jesus to the very end ran away in his hour of greatest need. I do not assume that Jesus’ arrest is what Amos was specifically pointing to, but I do believe that in the face of God’s actions human bravado and human power melt away leaving us naked before God, exposed in our weakness and our sinfulness and in desperate need of God’s grace to cover our multitude of sins.

2 Peter 1:1-11
Speaking of having our sins covered, verse 3 offers great comfort. It says, “His divine power has given us everything needed for life and godliness through the knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness.” Through the knowledge of the “glory and goodness” of Jesus Christ we are “covered” with everything we need to live a godly life, to be in community with God and one another. While the actions of God can lay us bare in our sinfulness, God’s grace offers us hope and peace. As John Newton wrote in the words of the hymn “Amazing Grace,” “’Twas grace that taught my heart to fear and grace my fears relieved.”

Matthew 21:1-11
It is fitting, then, to consider verse 10 from the gospel reading. “When he entered Jerusalem, the whole city was in a turmoil, asking, ‘Who is this?’” Again, the actions of God reveal the ignorance of humanity. But more importantly, God’s grace abounds in the opportunity to answer the question, “Who is this?” To know Jesus Christ to be the Son of God, even in his death, is to know God’s richest blessing of grace for all people and to find comfort and solace in our living.

Saturday, December 1, 2007

Glimpses of Grace


Micah 7:11-20
Verse 18 is a glimpse into the grace and mercy of God in relation to God’s people. “Who is a God like you, pardoning iniquity and passing over the transgression of the remnant of your possession? He does not retain his anger forever, because he delights in showing clemency.” There is wonder in these words, surprise and joy at a discovery of great value. Who is a God like our God?! No one. Where is such a God to be found? Nowhere. And though we fail to live up to God’s intentions for us as God’s people, God continues to show us mercy—not without judgment—but ultimately with love for us. Wow!

1 Peter 4:7-19
This entire section is thoughtful and deserves careful attention. But I have settled on verse 8 as most meaningful for me today: “Above all, maintain constant love for one another, for love covers a multitude of sins.” A community based on God’s love is a community strengthened to withstand whatever may happen. Disagreements will come, misunderstandings will arise, feelings will be hurt, there will be times of tension and doubt, but if the foundation for all relationships is the love we find in God, then community and its many, many blessings can be maintained. For love will lead to forgiveness, and to second chances, and to reconciliation, and to hope.

Matthew 20:29-34
Matthew’s version of this story includes two blind men, neither of whom is named. The key to this passage may actually lie in the preceding verse 28, which frames the confession of the two men: “…just as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life a ransom for many.” Those around Jesus, who can see him and know what he is doing, can not understand what this means. But those who can not see, but who live in faith, can see and understand! These two men accept the fact that Jesus is the Son of David, and therefore the Messiah. They recognize his authority to have mercy on them. And they put their hope in him and his willingness to act on behalf of God, which is ultimately Jesus’ motivation.